There are love stories and then, there is October.
October is easily the best romantic drama I will see in a very long time. On paper, the story may seem unfilmable, but director Shoojit Sircar and writer Juhi Chaturvedi create an artful, haunting symphony here.
Among hotel management trainees interning at a Delhi hotel are Danish aka Dan (Varun Dhawan) and Shiuli (Banita Sandhu). Dan is an ever-complaining, irritated and short-tempered trainee. His friends, colleagues, and manager find it hard to put up with him. Dan is assigned repeated errands related to cleaning rooms and laundry. Shiuli is, on the other hand, calm and professional.
On New Year's Eve, the trainees have a party on the hotel terrace. Shiuli sits on the terrace parapet asking, "Where is Dan?" She then slips and falls down four storeys. Severely injured, Shiuli is moved to a hospital and goes into a coma. Shiuli's mother (Gitanjali Rao), uncle and siblings arrive.
The absent Dan comes to know of the accident and visits Shiuli. He is bewildered when he discovers that Shiuli's last words were about him. Dan starts visiting Shiuli daily, even as his internship suffers and his friends and roommates fail to understand his concern for a girl he barely knows.
October is based on a true story and interprets the tragedy with insight and poetry, mingling with nature's wonders. I was constantly riveted.
This is a rare coming-of-age story. No sexual release, no dramatic moment, no sweet exchange of sugar candy dialogues. Just quiet, melancholy change as seasons pass and life glides by.
Never have hospital visits seemed so romantic. The cinematography (Avik Mukhopadhyay), the sense of location, the overcast atmosphere, add to the mood. Varun Dhawan is earnest and seeking depth. Banita Sandhu nails an unusual, difficult role with great stillness. Gitanjali Rao is well cast as the IIT professor and mother. The supporting cast is solid too.
Sircar explores every scene minutely. The 115-min running time, the deliberate use of minimal background music and the absence of songs, add to the film's impact. Nothing is underlined or overstated.
Is caring for a person you barely know, love? Is just giving love enough? How selfless can you be in love? What if you never knew whether the other person loved you? How many romantic films make you ask these questions?
October left me with the fragrance of the night jasmine long after the end credits rolled. Don't miss it.